Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer (N.Y.) said Thursday that Attorney General Jeff Sessions should resign and be investigated by the Department of Justice’s inspector general to determine whether he compromised an investigation into Russian influence.
“There cannot be even a scintilla of doubt about the impartiality and fairness of the attorney general, the top law enforcement official of the land,” Schumer told reporters at a news conference. “It’s clear Attorney General Sessions does not meet that test. Because the Department of Justice should be above reproach, for the good of the country, Attorney General Sessions should resign.”
Schumer, who for weeks has called for Sessions to recuse himself from the Justice Department’s investigation of contacts between Trump campaign officials and Russian intelligence agents, stepped up his demands after The Washington Post reported Wednesday night that Sessions misled Congress about meeting with the Russian ambassador.
Schumer said there was nothing wrong with Sessions meeting with Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, but he transgressed by failing to tell lawmakers about it during his confirmation hearing earlier this year.
“If there was nothing wrong, why didn’t you come clean and tell the whole truth?” Schumer asked.
Schumer argued that Sessions had weeks to set the record straight after testifying before the Judiciary Committee, but let it stand.
Sessions told Minnesota Sen. Al Franken (D) that he did not have “any communications with the Russians” when asked if he knew of anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign having contact with the Russian government.
Schumer said it’s hard to believe that Sessions simply failed to remember the meeting because he would have been thoroughly briefed before the hearing and would have known the question about contacts with Russia was likely to come up.
Asked if he thought Sessions perjured himself before Congress, Schumer said he would leave that question to the experts.
“It was definitely extremely misleading to say the least about what he did,” he said.
Schumer said the Justice Department should appoint a special prosecutor and that, given questions about Sessions’s impartiality, the decision should be made by Acting Deputy Attorney General Dana Boente, a career civil servant.
He said the special prosecutor should be an individual of great experience who is beyond reproach and has no significant ties to either party.
If the department refuses to appoint a special prosecutor, Schumer said Democrats will urge Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) to pass a new version of the independent counsel law, which would give a three-judge panel authority to appoint an independent counsel.
The law was put on the books after the Watergate scandal in which President Nixon ordered the dismissal of special prosecutor Archibald Cox.
Schumer said the Justice Department’s inspector general “must immediately begin an investigation into the attorney general’s involvement” in the investigation to determine whether he has interfered or tried to derail it to protect himself or President Trump.
He noted the inspector general can act without additional authority from within the department or elsewhere in the administration.
An investigation into Sessions could review whether he disclosed meetings with Kislyak during his FBI background check or attempted to manage the work of career department officials looking into ties between the Trump campaign and Russian officials.